Norman's lucky escape from the Weeping Woman A conduit of fine taste to the ordinary man

The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold

Share
Related Topics
I am a great lover of art. Regular as clockwork, I nip in each year to one gallery or another for quite a few minutes to check that nothing too awful is happening in the world of fine art.

Like many devotees of the canvas I am a great one for the telling detail, often gazing for a good few seconds at those areas of a painting others might overlook. I learnt the trick from my old friend and quaffing partner Lord St John of Norman Fawsley, who once pointed out that if one stares for long enough at Rembrandt's The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Tulp one can just make out, near the centre of the canvas, a rather pasty-faced corpse. "A Liberal Democrat, I dare say!" quipped Fawsley, burying his gig- gles in the light-mauve pocket-handkerchief that billowed from his upper left-hand jacket pocket.

One picks up an awful lot of unexpected information from close scrutiny of a painting; often one's preconceptions of a particular artist entirely change as a result. Take Picasso, for instance. Generally speaking, I have little time for this bald-headed Lothario, though the fame of his Weeping Woman proves, I suppose, that two heads are better than one (I jest!). Frankly, the Weeping Woman is not what one might call "my type of girl". She strikes me as the sort to make a mountain out of a molehill. Indeed, St John has pointed out that if one studies the background of the canvas with an acute eye one can just about make out an electric toaster with smoke pouring out of it. There we have it! The Weeping Woman is making all that song-and-dance over an accident with her long-suffering husband's morning toast!

On this evidence, the nation must thank goodness that Norman did not, in his younger days, turn a glad eye to the Weeping Woman and decide to make her his wife. She would not, I think, have proved a suitable spouse for a young and ambitious Conservative candidate in the late 1950s. Indeed, I doubt she would have passed the vetting procedure. "Mrs St John Stevas" the chairman of the selection committee might well have asked her, "would you be prepared to attend constituency coffee mornings?" Whereupon she would have burst into the proverbial floods of tears, forfeiting all goodwill.

"Your Majesty, my Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen, pray be standing for Lord Norman and Lady Weeping Woman of St John Fawsley!" the toastmaster would now be expected to say on state occasions. In would march poor Norman, this most unsuitable of escorts clinging in manic-depressive fashion to his left arm, sobbing her way to the top table. Let's face it, whatever her qualities of self-expression (dread word!) she would have proved a most unsuitable escort for Norman and might well have placed his future political career in the direst jeopardy.

Happily, sans Weeping Woman, Norman's career has flourished, so that he is now the proud chairman of the Royal Fine Art Commission, of which I myself have the honour to be Entertainments Secretary (Beverages and Liqueurs). But we in Britain are, I regret to say, only too ready to build up our heroes before pulling them down. This week, it has been Lord St Fawsley of John Norman's turn to be singled out for this treatment. "Inconsistent!" was one of the kinder epithets placed at St John's door by a damning report from the chip-on-shoulder brigade. I am only relieved that the report made no criticism of the inconsistent nature of Fawsley's shirt-tie-and- hankie combinations, for that would have cut us all to the very quick.

The report attacked us for costing the taxpayer pounds 800,000 a year. Yet this seems a trifling expense for ascertaining the very latest in good taste over an agreeable luncheon and dispatching the news with due haste to the man on the Clapham Omnibus before the arrival of coffee and mints. Occasionally, we even get "out and about"; for instance, before we condemned the vulgar millennium ferris wheel, we donned our chains of office to take a ride on a similar exhibit on Clacton Pier, Lord Norman in front in his "Kiss-Me-Quick" hat, my own good self in the middle clutching fast to Lord Jenkins of Hillhead and Quinlan Terry in blazer taking up the rear. Sadly, as we reached the top, St John of Fawsley went dreadfully white, warbled "I feel a little queasy", and vomited o'er the side on to ordinary members of the public 200 feet below. Was ever an aesthetic judgement delivered more decisively? Its consistency, too, was a thing to behold!

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Operative - Oxfordshire / Worcestershire - OTE £30k

£12000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Field Sales Operative is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

£12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Most powerful woman in British politics

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
All the major parties are under pressure from sceptical voters to spell out their tax and spending plans  

Yet again, the economy is the battleground on which the election will be fought

Patrick Diamond
Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders